Thawing relations with Cuba promise entrepreneurial opportunity in the U.S.

By Rieva Lesonsky

Last Sunday President Barack Obama made a historic trip to Cuba. Included in his schedule of activities was an entrepreneurship summit. This visit by an American president to this Caribbean island (the first since Calvin Coolidge went in 1928) holds a lot of not only promise politically, but economically as well.

The Innovation Group at J. Walter Thompson produced a report, The Promise of Cuba, available for $1,000 which addresses the “tempting dreams” of Cuba as an open market. You can also check out their summary of the report for free on Slideshare.

There’s a lot of entrepreneurial opportunity ahead, especially once the embargo lifts. The report says there will be about $13 billion in trade between the U.S. and Cuba “almost overnight” when the embargo ends.

Michael Nelson, one of the JWT researchers, says after spending time there that Cubans are an innovative people—citing a Wi-Fi booster he saw made from a Pringles can. He also reports there’s a “strong entrepreneurial mindset among younger people in Cuba.”

The report covers the Cuban economy, including the tourism industry (which JWT says, “offers the most immediate opportunities for profits” for American companies) and the new Cuban consumer, who is very aware of U.S. brands and technology. In fact, “Cubans have hacked their way into the 21st century, with smartphones that work without Wi-Fi, and digital culture that thrives away from Internet connections,” the report says.

Aside from travel (JWT says the island, which is only 90 miles from U.S. borders, “may become a vacation paradise for Millennials”) there’s bound to be interest in Cuban or Cuban-inspired fashions, décor, food, beverages (Cuba is known for its rum) and, of course, cigars.

There are slightly more than 11 million Cubans, many of whom are eagerly looking forward to doing business with Americans.